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Guernsey Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to Vivian B., Dawn S., and Angela S. for winning the Guernsey Giveaway! Happy reading!

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Review and GIVEAWAY

My first response to reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows was: I can’t believe this adorable novel has been in print for nine years and I’ve never heard of it! Forgive me, dear reader, for my failure in raving about this book sooner. I absolutely loved reading this epistolary novel, and I am so excited that it is getting more attention with the recently released film from Netflix.

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In this book, we learn about the island of Guernsey, which as part of the Channel Islands, was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. The people of Guernsey share their stories of the occupation, stories of bravery and patience, ingenuity and love. Their lives are the heartwarming kind; they make you want to be friends with them. And sometimes, you just need the kind of book that makes friends with you, the kind of book you could have tea with by your bay window overlooking the sea. This book feels like a penpal letter to your soul.

So what is the “Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society”? It’s a group of neighbors who come together to enjoy a secret meal (secret because they’ve hidden a pig from the Nazis who took all the animals for themselves) and who by necessity make up a book club on the spot when they’re almost caught. Even though the book club is just a coverup, they keep gathering together and reading books because they find it gives them joy and keeps them feeling alive during the dark times of the occupation.

guernsey

the island of Guernsey, image by John Rostron

So one of the things that makes this book work is its epistolary format: it is entirely written as letters from different people, marvelously fitted together to make the plot apparent to the reader. Because of the gaps between letters, there’s a tension about what’s happening off the page, making you feel like you’re in on a secret. There is something so charming about getting to know the characters through not only their own voices but also the voices of their friends. The people that make up the literary society are a community who have been through tragedy and trauma of war and hardship. But they come together and support each other even in the worst of times.

Much of the book is told through the perspective of Juliet, a writer from London who by chance has come to correspond with the Guernsey literary society and who is potentially researching a new book about their experience during the war. Juliet’s voice is endearing, and her “discovery” of the island and the islanders is enjoyable to follow. Finding the literary society for Juliet is like finding her tribe; she realizes she might just belong more on Guernsey than she does at home. And as she makes this discovery shortly after the war is over, we feel her journey like the awakening from nightmare into a dreamlike reality.

If you’ve read this blog before, you might know that I’m a little (ahem, okay a lot) obsessed with British television like Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey. This book gave me the same feels that make me obsess over those shows. Many days (if not most) you just need a dose of heartfelt, satisfying story that makes you think and feel at the same time. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the perfect read for this late summer, early autumn in-between time as we start to spend more time cozy inside than out in the sunshine.

The film is streaming now on Netflix, but I highly recommend picking up the book too. You can purchase yours here. To celebrate the new film, Penguin Random House is letting me give away three copies of the book to my readers!

 

Giveaway Details

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) and/or post on Twitter using the hashtag #guernseygiveaway and @roseofthewest. By leaving a comment on this post or on Twitter, you are agreeing to the following rules:

OFFICIAL RULES

  • No purchase necessary
  • One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post. An additional entry is granted by posting a comment on Twitter with the hashtag #guernseygiveaway and @roseofthewest
  • Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
  • Giveaway entries will be accepted from Tuesday, September 4, 2018 until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16, 2018.
  • 3 randomly selected winners will win a copy of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • 3 winners will be selected at random from the comment section on this post and the comments on Twitter. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Sunday, September 16, 2018 will be entered. Winners will be announced Monday, September 17, 2018 Winners will have one week to claim prize.
  • Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
  • The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
  • By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
  • If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
  • Neither Rose M. West nor Penguin Random House is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
  • Prize is provided by Penguin Random House
  • Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
  • Void where prohibited by law

Don’t forget to share this post with your British-loving friends. Follow me on Twitter for Giveaway updates!

 

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Memoir Review of My History by Antonia Fraser and BOOK GIVEAWAY

London-born and Oxford-bred, Lady Antonia Fraser, queen of biography, remembers her own life in My History: A Memoir of Growing Up. With anecdotes that speak to Fraser’s love of, and later career in, biographical history, this winding journey of memory will appeal to lovers of Fraser’s work as well as Anglophiles who want to explore life in England during the 1930s and 1940s. The book follows Fraser’s memories from early childhood through her beginnings in publishing.

My History: A Memoir of Growing Up by Antonia Fraser

A magical remembering of the bells ringing in Oxford start us out in the first chapter. Not yet three years old, Fraser witnesses King George V and Queen Mary on their Silver Jubilee, standing in a tower in Oxford. Throughout her childhood she speaks of castles and ancestral haunts. With such beginnings and surroundings, who can be surprised by Fraser’s later obsession with the history of the British?

Much of the first section of the book talks about Fraser’s parents, both of whom were very passionate politically and professionally. Coming from a privileged British family, Fraser was given a front row seat to her country’s workings as both her parents were involved in the government. She tells of canvassing door-to-door in her parents behalf and working on her mother’s campaign. This was a time Fraser remembers fondly.

Lady Margaret Hall Oxford “LMH Quad” by Sarah from UK

Those who are well-read in Fraser’s work will likely not be surprised by her interest in strong, fascinating women in history, such as Marie Antoinette and Mary, Queen of Scots. This attraction to the female anecdotes of history can be seen starting in Fraser’s childhood. Reading the works of Henrietta Marshall from the young age of four, Fraser quickly gained an interest in the aged past, and especially the noted women of history. As she read about Mary, Queen of Scots, Fraser put herself in the place of the fated Queen; this speaks to her intuitive ability to connect the past with modern readers.

Perhaps another reason Fraser portrays strong female characters is because of her mother as well as her own upbringing. Watching her mother run for government and speak with passion about her beliefs perhaps inspired the daughter in her own independence and personal passion. Fraser recounts the years she spent at a school once known as a strictly boys’ school and how she felt somewhat special about being in the small number of girls present. These experiences no doubt helped build Fraser’s own character as she later made a name for herself in publishing.

Through vivid details and charming narratives, Fraser brings her own life to the realm of biography. She peruses her past with a historian’s analysis combined with a grandmother’s reminiscence. It’s as if Fraser is taking a step aside from her lifetime career of literary work to make meaning of her experience and bring it all full circle.

Those familiar with the biographies of Antonia Fraser will find her childhood background enlightening, connecting pieces of her own past to her future fascination with history. But even those for whom My History is their first book by Fraser will enjoy her personal stories, her tales of living through World War II, school at Oxford, and her growing up surrounded by British politicians. For Anglophiles, My History provides a look at an England changing from pre-war to post-war; it gives the reader glances at the streets of Oxford as well as the publishing realm during the mid-century.

My History: A Memoir of Growing Up will be published in the U.S. October 13, 2015, but you can you pre-order your copy here.

Don’t forget to enter the book giveaway below! Doubleday has provided me with 2 copies of this wonderful book for my readers, so comment away and spread the word! Just follow the link and use your email to sign in. Then leave a comment or follow me on Twitter to enter the giveaway. Be sure to submit your entry THROUGH the Rafflecopter link below. Please let me know if this is not working for you and we will work it out :)

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Other works by Antonia Fraser:

Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Wives of Henry VIII

Mary Queen of Scots

The Weaker Vessel

The Gunpowder Plot
Thank you to Nan A. Talese/Doubleday for providing a galley for review.  

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Poldark Blu-ray Giveaway

Do you love Masterpiece: Poldark? How does a free Blu-ray disc set of your latest English obsession sound? Thanks to our friends over at PBS Distribution, I am honored to host a giveaway for 5 copies of Poldark on Blu-ray. Could it get any better? If you are new to Poldark, be sure to check out my review here.

© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) By leaving a comment on this post, you are agreeing to the following rules:

OFFICIAL RULES

  • No purchase necessary
  • One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post.
  • Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
  • Giveaway entries will be accepted from Friday, July 10 until 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015
  • 5 randomly selected winners will win the Complete First Season of Masterpiece: Poldark on Blu-ray, including extra bonus features. The run time of this program is approximately 480 minutes on 3 discs. The Blu-ray SRP is $49.99.
  • 5 winners will be selected at random from the comment section on this post. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015 will be entered. Winners will be announced Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Winners will have one week to claim prize.
  • Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
  • The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
  • By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
  • If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
  • Neither Rose West nor PBS Distribution is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
  • Prize is provided by PBS Distribution
  • Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
  • Void where prohibited by law

So comment away! And don’t forget to share this post with your other Anglophile friends. Even if you don’t win, Poldark is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution! So be sure to get in on the fun!

Follow me on Twitter for Giveaway updates!

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The Man in a Three-Cornered Hat: A Review of Poldark

For over forty years, PBS Masterpiece has been good to us Anglophiles. As our main importer of many of BBC’s classic television series, Masterpiece has given us such memorable visual feasts as Jeeves and Wooster; Upstairs, Downstairs; Agatha Christie’s Poirot; and Sherlock. If you, like me, thought Downton Abbey was the peak of Masterpiece’s best programs, then think again. Poldark, the latest English drama to invade America, has been sending its fans indoors every Sunday night to enjoy the most recent episode. With the release of Poldark on DVD and Blu-ray this week, those of us who missed it on television can catch up. (Follow the link at the end of the post to enter my giveaway of 5 Blu-ray sets of Poldark!)

Poldark overlooking the cliffs of Cornwall  © ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Poldark overlooking the cliffs of Cornwall
© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

The Plot

Episode One opens on unusual territory for BBC: the thick woods of Colonial Virginia, 1781. We are introduced to Captain Ross Poldark (how’s that for a hero’s name?), a British soldier who seems dissatisfied with the American Revolution and his own lot in life. After two years and an injury that leaves a scar down the side of his face, Poldark returns home to his family estate in Cornwall, England. Only, neither his family nor his estate is the same as when he left.

His father having died in his absence, Poldark’s only family left are his uncle and cousins who live on an adjacent property. They at first welcome home the man they thought had died in battle, but when Poldark learns that his former love interest, Elizabeth, is now engaged to his cousin, his family relations start to decay.

If coming home to a dead father and unrequited love isn’t enough, Poldark returns to his inherited estate which has been essentially abandoned to the decay of dust and rodents. Poldark, worn down by combat and the corrosion of his entire life, works to restore his home, a difficult task considering the poverty-stricken economy Cornwall has acquired since the war. His two current servants being next to useless, Poldark does much of the work of rebuilding walls and upkeep himself. His lack of funds and food eventually drive him to seek investors in order to reopen his abandoned copper mine, in the hopes that his luck will turn.

Meanwhile, Poldark, whose local reputation is slightly less than respected, takes an interest in others who have likewise nothing to lose. He meets Demelza, a red-headed girl dressed as a boy to escape her father’s abusive supervision. Despite his inadequate money for food, Poldark takes her in as a kitchen maid and even fights off a hoard of brutish relatives when they arrive to claim her. As Poldark struggles to survive, we see him grow into his circumstances, helping those around him in his community.

The Cast

Captain Ross Poldark, played by Aidan Turner (known for his role as Kili in The Hobbit trilogy), is our complicated hero. Known as the gambler that he was in his youth,, Poldark has been changed by his experiences in the war. His life has been darkened by tragedy, and he approaches life’s uncertainty with a calm, confident demeanor. He is not just a likeable hero; he is lovable. We love him because of his determination in the face of loss, his compassion on Demelza, and (of course) his sexy, brooding charm.

Captain Ross Poldark  © ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Captain Ross Poldark
© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Elizabeth, the girl Poldark left behind, is played by Icelandic actress Heida Reed (from the film One Day). Although at first we find her attractive and pitiable (how could she know Poldark was still alive?), before long, we realize that she ties herself to her circumstances by obeying her culture’s rules of decorum and going through with the marriage to Poldark’s cousin Francis. She still feels something for Poldark, however, but this only makes matters worse when she risks reputation-damaging gossip by seeking his attention in public.

Ross Poldark with © ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Ross Poldark with © ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Demelza, the red-headed girl who transforms from being dirty, afraid, and dressed like a boy, into a clear-eyed, beautiful, and supportive companion to Poldark, is played by Eleanor Tomlinson, who is no stranger to English television drama, having played in The White Queen and Death Comes to Pemberley. Demelza provides a refreshing contrast to Elizabeth: she tackles life’s hardships head-on and stays by Poldark’s side no matter what. Over time Demelza comes into her own and we can quickly imagine her

Demelza  © ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Demelza
© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

Three-cornered hats off, if you please, to playwright-screenwriter Debbie Hosfield for her adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels. It’s been forty years since the first television adaptation of the series, and Hosfield, together with directors Edward Bazalgette and William McGregor, has refreshed modern television with a renewed old story.

I’d also like to note the gorgeous score by Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley. The soaring violins run along with the dramatic views of cliffs and ocean swells, adding that extra dimension to film which deserves to be recognized in its own right. The scenery itself is absolutely breathtaking as the show was filmed on location in Cornwall. Overall, Poldark shouldn’t be missed as it captures all the elements that make a great Masterpiece!

Poldark is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution. I’d like to thank PBS Distribution for providing me with the material I needed for this review.
If you would like a chance to win your very own  Blu-ray set of Poldark, enter our giveaway here. But hurry, the end date is midnight EST on Monday, July 20th!

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